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Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Tuesday, 26 October 2010 12:31 UK
Custody battle rages over Coco the African grey parrot
An african grey parrot
Coco, an African grey similar to this one, is embroiled in a tug-of-love

An African grey parrot in Harlow is at the centre of a custody battle.

Coco has lived at the council-run Pets Corner for almost 10 years, but now a man who claims to be his previous owner says he wants him back.

Angelo Ferlazzo told BBC Essex he is certain Coco is his former pet because he whistled 'O Sole Mio' at him.

Harlow Council said there was no definitive proof Coco had belonged to Angelo and it would be too unsettling for him to move from his current home.

Angelo said he was "100% certain" the Italian singing parrot was his, because of the tune he had taught his feathered friend.

"Yes it is Coco. He whistled 'Just One Cornetto' to me after 20 years when he saw me," he said.

"He was confused when he first saw me. He didn't whistle, he didn't do anything.

Because Coco has been at Pets Corner for 10 years it would be deeply unsettling for him, because he shares an aviary with all his friends and other parrots
Cllr Joel Charles

"But as soon as I walked out of the parrot room he started to whistle to say 'come back here, I recognise you.'"

Angelo explained how he had been separated from Coco for over 20 years.

He had bought him in 1984, but split up with his wife in 1989 and went back to Italy and left the parrot with her.

He discovered two years ago she had since given it to pets corner.

Angelo said he had made an offer to Pets Corner to replace Coco with a new African grey parrot.

"It could be a nice story for them, a nice story for me, everybody is happy," he said.

"Why else would I want a 28-year-old parrot? Because we grew up together. I would be very happy to leave him at Pets Corner if he is happy there, but I know he remembers me."

Unsettling

In response, Conservative Harlow District Councillor, Joel Charles, said: "I think the most important point is Coco's welfare.

"The first thing we did when Angelo approached us was to talk to the RSPCA.

"They told us that because Coco has been at Pets Corner for 10 years it would be deeply unsettling for him, because he shares an aviary with all his friends and other parrots."

Cllr Charles said he sympathised with Angelo's affection for Coco, but added: "We don't know if Angelo is actually the owner; he's never produced any proof that he is actually the owner.

"All we do know is at the time when the bird was donated to us, the legal owner was Angelo's ex-wife.

"The Council have looked into this matter and we've got no facts to question our rightful ownership of Coco."




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